(The Center Square) – In passing an education scholarship bill this year, South Carolina lawmakers followed a national trend of allowing more parents to choose where to send their kids to school.
Under S.39, the Educational Scholarship Trust Fund, eligible students — state residents with “a statement of Medicaid eligibility” — can receive scholarships of up to $6,000. They can use the money to cover instructional materials, tutoring, computer hardware, assessments, transportation, tuition and fees.
“South Carolina’s S.39 is one of the new programs that passed in 2023,” Shaka Mitchell, a senior fellow for the American Federation for Children, told The Center Square via email. “Students are set to begin using the program in 2024 and funds can be directed by parents in numerous ways to customize the education for the individual child.
“At the same time, there are other measures being considered in South Carolina like a tuition tax credit program,” Mitchell added. “All to say, it seems the levee has finally broken in South Carolina and the legislature is responding to parents’ call for educational freedom.”
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, a Republican, signed the measure in May, and it might be the first step in education reform. House Republicans previously said the legislation “lays the groundwork for broader legislation that will fully empower South Carolina parents in making educational choices for their children.”
“If political movements had a championship, then the school choice movement just finished a three-peat,” Nathan Cunneen, a communications strategist for AFC, told The Center Square via email. “2021 was the best year for school choice in history, and then 2022 was the best year for school choice in history, and then 2023 was the best year for school choice in history.
“Already in 2023, 16 states passed legislation to give families a choice when it comes to their education, and six of those did it on a universal basis,” Cunneen added. “There’s still a good chance for more victories in Texas, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina this year. Further, school choice continues to rise in popularity. New polling shows that 71% of Americans support school choice. Additionally, 70% of Asian, 73% of Black, 71% of Hispanic, and 71% of White voters support school choice.”